“Power is much easier to acquire than it is to hold on to.”
About a year ago, I wrote about the Game of Thrones-shaped hole in my life. Happily, that hole will soon be filled—April cannot come quickly enough! One of the benefits of being GoT-less was that I got to read a ton of female-authored and centric fantasy. (As you probably have surmised, while I do dearly love the HBO show, there have been many problematic episodes and arcs, particularly where certain female characters are involved—though I do think the last season in particular has made big strides towards acknowledging at least some of these issues.)
In the written canon of high fantasy, especially in the last several years, there has happily been an explosion of female-centric fantasy, especially across age categories. From brave warriors to sinister mages, power-hungry tyrants, to morally-conflicted anti-heroes—there’s a wealth of nuanced characterizations in which to revel. This list is a collection of some of those newest female-centric and authored fantasy novels, to get through the last days of winter.
Daughters of Flame by Kim Wilkins. The five sisters are back in this sequel to Daughters of the Storm. Having saved their father, King of Almissia, from his near-fatal poisoning, Bluebell, Ash, Rose, Ivy, and Willow have set down very different paths—ones that will bind some of the sisters closer together, and other that will tear them apart. I loved the first book in this series dearly, and cannot wait to dive into this second novel following the would-be rulers of the realm.
The Women’s War by Jenna Glass. Imagine your typical medieval analog fantasy world. Men are naturally born to power and take it in force, while women are used as tokens for marriage and bloodline alliances (if they are lucky). Now, imagine that patriarchal world upended by a spell that gives women the ability to control their reproductive destiny—and seize magic for themselves. This is the premise of The Women’s War, following two different characters—one on a throne, the other cast aside—as they come into their own magic and spark a revolution.
The Wicked King by Holly Black. Another sequel on the list—this time from YA fantasy author Holly Black. In the follow-up to The Cruel Prince, we return to the realm of the Fair Folk and their dangerous court intrigues and power games. In a desperate attempt to save her younger brother’s life, Jude takes ambition to the next level and tricks an enemy into the fairy crown as her puppet (for a year and a day). Now, Jude must deal with the consequences of that decision—and keeping power, as her father taught her—is not nearly as easy as taking it. I love this series for many reasons, but mostly it boils down to power dynamics, and the way Black balances a relatively fragile human without magical abilities or gifts (but a surfeit of defiance and strategy), in the cruel power-hungry realm of the fey.
A Curse So Dark And Lonely by Bridgid Kemmerer. This one is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast—which, I know, has been done many times before. In Kemmerer’s version, a young woman with cerebral palsy witnesses a would-be kidnapping and intervenes. Unfortunately, this means that Harper is the one abducted instead, and whisked away to an enchanted castle under a powerful curse. Harper is quick to piece things together and relies on her own smarts and courage to fight against her captors, gather as much information as she can about the curse, and make her own decisions about how to help the ensorcelled when the Prince will not.
The Deepest Blue by Sarah Beth Durst. A spinoff standalone companion novel to the Queens of Renthia trilogy, The Deepest Blue is set in the same world but following a different Queen. In this world, elemental spirits are set on killing humans—it is through the magical abilities of a single Queen that protects the people from being ripped apart by these powerful, rage-filled creatures. In The Deepest Blue, we turn to the island queendom of Belene and an unlikely heroine with hidden power to control and protect from spirits. To unveil one’s power is to become a potential heir to the Queen—and to give up one’s life forever. This is Mayara’s story, as she forgoes the life she always thought she would have, in return for one she never wished for.
What other books are on your list?